Boston Red Sox: 2010 preview

ESPN.com Illustration
Day 5 of our season preview is all about Red Sox-Yankees, with a look at how the teams stack up against each other from the perspective of ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes and Wallace Matthews from the brand spankin’ new ESPNNewYork.com.

The two beat reporters answer the following questions as we wait anxiously for Sunday’s Opening Night Red Sox-Yankees clash at Fenway:

-- Which team improved more in the offseason, and which new addition will make the biggest impact?

-- Which team's starting rotation is better and why? And rank your top five starters, in order, from the combined Red Sox and Yankees rotations.

-- Which team will score more runs?

-- Which team has the better bullpen?

-- What's the biggest strength and weakness with each team?

-- Where do you see each team finishing, in terms of number of wins and whether it makes the playoffs? Who's more likely to win the World Series?

-- Which team do you think gets the better of the season-opening series at Fenway?

Also part of today’s Red Sox-Yankees smorgasbord is Jim Caple’s fun look at the history of the rivalry and Howard Bryant’s examination of the state of the teams.

Here’s a recap at our Red Sox season preview features from Edes, Joe McDonald and ESPN.com’s baseball reporters for the rest of the week:

* Monday:
-- Jeremy Lundblad: For Red Sox, a run saved is a run earned
-- Stark: What truly makes a winner win
-- Rank 'em: Where would rank the Red Sox among all teams in baseball?

* Tuesday:
-- Joe McDonald: Red Sox success rides on Big Papi
-- AL East capsules: Yankees | Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Blue Jays
-- Vote: Which team is tops in AL East?
-- Olney video: Options if Ortiz struggles
-- Video: AL East storylines
-- How Red Sox won 122 games in a sim season Insider
-- Sim season: AL East preview Insider
-- Video: Baseball Tonight's AL East picks
-- Video: Schilling on Sox pitching, AL East

* Wednesday:
-- Gordon Edes: Why Adrian Gonzalez is Boston's Most Wanted
-- Four reasons for offensive optimism for Sox
-- Joe McDonald's player-by-player Red Sox scouting report

* Thursday:
-- Gordon Edes: Get ready for an AL East arms race
-- Rank 'Em: Red Sox vs. Yankees rotation
-- Predictions: 10 burning questions with Edes and McDonald
-- Bill Simmons podcast: Red Sox-Yankees talk

* Friday:
-- Red Sox-Yankees: Who has the upper hand?
-- Jim Caple: Red Sox-Yankees rivalry timeline
-- Howard Bryant: Red Sox-Yankee rivalry renewed
-- BP's projected standings: Sox win East Insider
-- Video: Olney and Boone on Sox-Yankees rivalry
-- Jayson Stark: Red Sox lose in World Series
-- Expert picks for divisions, World Series
-- BP's projected standings: Sox win East Insider

ESPN.com Illustration
Day 4 of our Red Sox season preview features Gordon Edes’ scouting report on the Red Sox rotation, with quotes from pitching coach John Farrell on each member of the five-man staff and a scout’s take as well. He also breaks down the Yankees’ rotation in what sets up as an arms race for the AL East title.

Here are three of the most interesting notes from the story:

1. A scout’s take on Jon Lester: "Lester passed Beckett last year, to where he is one of the top 10 starting pitchers in the American League. Lester or Sabathia? Lester is younger and cheaper. If you're a GM and have a choice, you probably take Lester."

2. Farrell thinks Josh Beckett looks like he did in 2007, a season in which he won 20 games, had a 3.27 ERA and was unhittable in the postseason. Here’s a quote from Farrell:

“When Josh is throwing the baseball the way he is now, the way he did in '07, and the way he did for the vast majority of '09, he's a guy who can dominate the bottom part of the strike zone. For him, it becomes very simple. When he's in the bottom of the zone, and this makes it sound simple, but when you harness the intensity, the competitiveness and power that he has, and he is able to throw the ball down in the zone, he is that 20-win-caliber pitcher. He's doing that right now in spring training. We feel very similar to the way we did the start of last year and the start of 2007. Now it's a matter of going out and maintaining that consistency.”

3. A scout says the velocity on Wakefield’s knuckleball is down: "Wakefield's knuckleball is now good, not great. He's lost some stuff. You don't talk about velocity with a knuckleballer, but velocity is still a factor for him. He used to be 67-68 with the knuckleball; now it's more 66-65. His knuckleball is still good, but if you rated it an 80 before [on a 20-80 scale], you might give it a 70 now."

Also today, we ask you to rank the Red Sox and Yankees starters, 1-11 (we included Daisuke Matsuzaka as well).

Here’s a recap at our Red Sox season preview features so far and a look at what’s coming up from Edes, Joe McDonald and ESPN.com’s baseball reporters for the rest of the week:

* Monday:
-- Jeremy Lundblad: For Red Sox, a run saved is a run earned
-- Stark: What truly makes a winner win
-- Rank 'em: Where would rank the Red Sox among all teams in baseball?

* Tuesday:
-- Joe McDonald: Red Sox success rides on Big Papi
-- AL East capsules: Yankees | Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Blue Jays
-- Vote: Which team is tops in AL East?
-- Olney video: Options if Ortiz struggles
-- Video: AL East storylines
-- How Red Sox won 122 games in a sim season Insider
-- Sim season: AL East preview Insider
-- Video: Baseball Tonight's AL East picks
-- Video: Schilling on Sox pitching, AL East

* Wednesday:
-- Gordon Edes: Why Adrian Gonzalez is Boston's Most Wanted
-- Four reasons for offensive optimism for Sox
-- Joe McDonald's player-by-player Red Sox scouting report

* Thursday:
-- Gordon Edes: Get ready for an AL East arms race
-- Rank 'Em: Red Sox vs. Yankees rotation
-- Predictions: 10 burning questions with Edes and McDonald
-- Bill Simmons podcast: Red Sox-Yankees talk

* Friday: Complete Red Sox-Yankees preview, plus season predictions.

McDonald
McDonald
Edes
Edes
As part of our week-long Red Sox season preview, we asked our Red Sox scribes -- Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald -- to make 10 predictions on questions regarding personnel decisions and overall team and player performances. Below are their responses. Check back later today for Edes’ feature on the Red Sox and Yankees rotations.

* Which Red Sox pitcher is most likely to win the Cy Young award?


[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Jeff Griffith/US PresswireBoth Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald agree that Jon Lester has a chance to do something special this season.
EDES: Jon Lester. Picked him in ’09, picking him again in ’10, better start this season.

MCDONALD: Jon Lester. This power left-hander just keeps getting better and better. Not only has his stuff improved, his confidence is right there along with it. He’s no doubt one of the 10 best pitchers in the majors.

* Which Red Sox hitter will lead the team in homers, and how many will he hit?


EDES: Kevin Youkilis will finish with an even 30, 1 or 2 more than Papi.

MCDONALD: It’s going to be a tie. Both David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis will hit 33 home runs this season.

* Will the Red Sox score more or fewer runs than they did last season (872, ranked third in baseball)?


EDES: The Red Sox will score fewer runs, but still more than just about everybody in the league.

MCDONALD: They will score more runs this season and surpass the 900-run mark. Let’s go with 919 runs this season.

* Which Red Sox player will be the biggest surprise?


EDES: Jeremy Hermida. Follows in footsteps of another late-blooming ex-Marlin, Kevin Millar

MCDONALD: Jacoby Ellsbury will improve in every category this season, including a slight increase in home runs.

* Which Red Sox player will be the biggest disappointment?


EDES: Marco Scutaro. He’s at an age (34) where the physical breakdowns can accelerate, and may feel compelled to play through the hurts because no real backup.

MCDONALD: I wouldn’t say Clay Buchholz will be a total disappointment, but he won’t reach his full potential this season.

* Which newcomer will make the biggest impact this season: John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, Jeremy Hermida?


EDES: John Lackey. Opponents will dread weekend series in which they have to go Beckett, Lester, Lackey.

MCDONALD: All are good additions for the Red Sox and all will contribute in their own way. But, Adrian Beltre will have the biggest impact this season.

[+] EnlargeDaisuke Matsuzaka
AP Photo/Margaret BowlesDaisuke Matsuzaka's role with the Red Sox will be one of the biggest questions of the first part of the season.

* When Daisuke Matsuzaka returns to health, which pitcher will he replace in the rotation? Or will he go to the bullpen?


EDES: Sox hope they can dodge that decision. If all six are healthy -- and how often does that happen -- the Sox could put Buchholz on the Pawtucket shuttle. But if Buchholz is pitching well, he’s not going anywhere, including the pen. Daisuke to the pen would cause an international incident. Wakefield has done it before, but he won’t be happy.

MCDONALD: If and when he’s healthy, Matsuzaka won’t replace anyone in the rotation. Barring a trade or injuries, Red Sox management will figure out a way to utilize all six starters. I’m not saying Boston will have a six-man rotation, but it will get creative.

* Will the Red Sox trade for Adrian Gonzalez during the season? And if not him, will they make a trade for an impact hitter?


EDES: They will try mightily, but lot of factors out of their control. Gonzalez won’t be going anywhere in July if Pads defy forecasts and compete. Other clubs will also be packaging prospects. If David Ortiz is still hitting, the Sox could elect to wait a year for Gonzalez to become a free agent, thus holding on to their best kids.

MCDONALD: For all the talk about this possible trade, I don’t think it’s going to happen. But Theo Epstein won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on another deal if the club needs a certain piece come the July 31 deadline.

* How many wins for the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays this season? Who wins the East? Wild card?


EDES: I’ll say 95 for Sox, 93 for Yankees, 91 for Rays. Sox win division, Yankees win wild card.

MCDONALD: Red Sox -- 97, Yankees -- 99, Rays -- 95. Yankees win the East and Sox take the wild card. Rays get left out.

* Of the following three players whose contracts may expire at the end of the season, which is least likely to be back with the Red Sox next season: David Ortiz (team option for 2011), Josh Beckett or Victor Martinez?


EDES: May depend on what monetary value Sox assign to Martinez. May decide they won’t get as high as he can get on open market. Papi could well stay as bridge to Gonzalez if Gonzalez is not traded.

MCDONALD: Beckett and Martinez will sign extensions. The Sox will wait and see how Ortiz performs this season, but I believe the club will pick up his option for 2011.

Follow Gordon Edes (@GordonEdes) and Joe McDonald (@ESPNJoeyMac) on Twitter.
AP Photos, Icon SMI
As part of our season preview, ESPNBoston.com’s Joe McDonald runs down the projected roster and gives his player-by-player scouting report on the 2010 Red Sox. Check out the photo gallery here.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Day 3 of our Red Sox season preview features a look at Red Sox trade target Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres first baseman who Theo Epstein is sure to try to acquire again before the Jul 31 trade deadline.

ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes spoke with Red Sox special assistant Dave Finley, who was with the Marlins in 2000 and played a role in the team drafting Gonzalez with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Here’s more from Edes, who connects the dots to conclude that all signs point to Boston making another concerted run at acquiring Gonzalez:

Adrian Gonzalez was the last player Dave Finley would personally sign, one who has more than lived up to the scout's projections: a .304 average in 2006, an average of 106 RBIs in each of the last three seasons, and a home run total that has gone up every year, from 24 in '06 to 40 last season.

A decade later, Gonzalez is back in San Diego, this time as a big league star and a hometown favorite. Finley is with the Red Sox, promoted in January as special assistant to general manager Theo Epstein, who didn't want to see Finley follow his former assistant and new Padres GM Jed Hoyer to San Diego.

And Finley is working for the same owner, Henry, who was once willing to spend millions on Gonzalez and would be eager to do so again.

The Red Sox pushed hard before the trading deadline last July to acquire Gonzalez, right to the final day, but every time they thought they were close to a deal, Padres GM Kevin Towers asked for more. The Sox, finally deciding that Towers wasn't ready to part with Gonzalez, turned to Cleveland and traded for switch-hitting Victor Martinez instead.

The Sox made inquiries again this winter, this time to Hoyer, who last summer was on the same side of the negotiating table, trying to persuade the Padres to part with Gonzalez. With Gonzalez signed for relatively low money through 2011, and the one player worthy of marquee status after the Padres traded pitching mainstay Jake Peavy to the White Sox, San Diego insists it's in no hurry to peddle him.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see him here two more seasons," Padres CEO Jeff Moorad told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week. "We're first and foremost committed to winning here. Last year I thought we took the first significant step in that process. And, at this point, Adrian definitely is a part of that process."

Finley, born and raised in San Diego and a lifelong Padres fan, understands more than most the elements of Gonzalez's appeal there: bilingual, outgoing, real star appeal on a team lacking any.

"He's a perfect fit in San Diego, except for the fact they're not winning."

And there's the rub, and the reason the Red Sox, who see Gonzalez as the ideal, middle-of-the-order hitter to succeed David Ortiz, will make a concerted effort to acquire Gonzalez again between now and the July trading deadline. The Padres aren't presently constructed to win. Gonzalez could bring multiple pieces in a deal. Hoyer and his top aide, Jason McLeod, the former Sox scouting director, know the Red Sox system better than any other management team.


We also reached back into the archive to dig up a statistical analysis of why Gonzalez is perfectly suited to play at Fenway Park.

Here’s a recap at our Red Sox season preview features so far and a look at what’s coming up from Gordon Edes, Joe McDonald and ESPN.com’s baseball reporters for the rest of the week:

* Monday:
-- Jeremy Lundblad: For Red Sox, a run saved is a run earned
-- Stark: What truly makes a winner win
-- Rank 'em: Where would rank the Red Sox among all teams in baseball?

* Tuesday:
-- Joe McDonald: Red Sox success rides on Big Papi
-- AL East capsules: Yankees | Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Blue Jays
-- Vote: Which team is tops in AL East?
-- Olney video: Options if Ortiz struggles
-- Video: AL East storylines
-- How Red Sox won 122 games in a sim season Insider
-- Sim season: AL East preview Insider
-- Video: Baseball Tonight's AL East picks
-- Video: Schilling on Sox pitching, AL East

* Wednesday:
-- Gordon Edes: Why Adrian Gonzalez is Boston's Most Wanted
-- Four reasons for offensive optimism for Sox

* Still to come Wednesday:
Joe McDonald’s player-by-player Red Sox scouting report

* Thursday: Edes compares the starting rotations of the Red Sox and Yankees (and we ask you to rank each pitcher) and staff predictions for the Red Sox in 2010.

* Friday: Complete Red Sox-Yankees preview, plus season predictions.

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